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Recent Publications by New English Review Authors
As Far As The Eye Can See
by Moshe Dann
Threats of Pain and Ruin
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky














Wednesday, 31 December 2008
A Musical Interlude: The Show Is Over (Elsie Carlisle)
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Posted on 12/31/2008 7:27 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Outside, It Was 1933
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Posted on 12/31/2008 10:41 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
A Hogmanay-Ne'erday Interlude: Auld Lang Syne
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Posted on 12/31/2008 10:18 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Farewell Woolworths - you were well worth it
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by Esmerelda Weatherwax  (Jan. 2009)


The demise of the household store FW Woolworth, or Woolies is not a happy event with which to begin 2009 which should have been the shops centenary year.


I know that the firm was originally an American foundation and the unhappy life of Barbara Hutton the "Woolworth's heiress" as she was called in the press, was well known. more>>>

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Posted on 12/31/2008 6:39 PM by NER
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Sex on the Beach - is Western Decadence a Molotov Cocktail?
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by Mary Jackson(January 2009)

They belch, vomit, copulate, litter and barge their way through public spaces, dressed like hookers and louts, defying the police without shame or modesty. British expatriates are some of the worst: overpaid, oversexed and all over the place.
This is how Minette Marrin, writing in The Times, describes the British abroad, and with some justification. Marrin is responding to the case of well-heeled expatriates Michelle Palmer, 36, and Vince Acors, 34, who had drunken sex on a beach in Dubai and insulted a policeman who tried to caution them. The “couple” – or rather “copulating pair”, for they had only just met – were sentenced to three months in prison for offending public decency and fined about £200 ($320). As a preventative measure, in early November, Dubai’s popular Madinat Jumeirah hotel issued an “etiquette guide”, warning guests to “employ discretion” in public displays of affection (“anything more than a peck on the cheek”) and warning that “drunken behaviour”, especially outside licensed premises in the hotel, is severely punished.“  more>>>

 
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Posted on 12/31/2008 6:35 PM by NER
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Great Danes in Exile: Part 1 - Piet Hein
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by Norman Berdichevsky (Dec. 2008)


Shakespeare characterized a famous Danish Prince, Hamlet, and indeed all of us as the victims of the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.“ The same might be said to apply to the entire Danish nation. Its endurance and many achievements in the arts, sciences and democratic institutions were in the last century and a half twice jeopardized by invasion and occupation (1864 and 1940-45) by an aggressive Germany. Many foreign observers and even Danes such as Hans Christian Andersen questioned whether a nation that had so long placed its trust in good will and mutual respect rather than armed resistance to aggression could long endure.  more>>>

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Posted on 12/31/2008 6:30 PM by NER
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Does Israel Have the Resolve to Vanquish Hamas?
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by Jerry Gordon (Jan.2009)


At 11:04 AM on Saturday, December 27th the first of two waves of more than 110 Israeli fighter bombers and helicopters ranged over Gaza in response to Hamas rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli towns which had intensified on December 25th. In less than four minutes, the IAF dropped over 100 tons of bombs aimed at destroying more than 100 Hamas targets in what were the opening stanzas of Operation Cast Lead. The Jerusalem Post noted the precise results of this initial aerial assault was reminiscent of the opening moments of the Gulf War in 1991 and Iraqi Operation Enduring Freedom in 2003. more>>>

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Posted on 12/31/2008 6:27 PM by NER
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Peace Is War By Other Means
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by Nidra Poller (Jan. 2009)


Wednesday November 26, 2008: Thingamijig struck in Mumbai, leaving close to 200 dead, 300 maimed or injured, and the public mind, once more, in tatters. “They have not yet expressed their demands,” said perspicacious reporters, as if waiting for the cold-blooded gunmen to call room service. As the dead were dying in pools of blood (caution: graphic images) the pundits were wondering exactly what conflict had propelled the killers into the train station, a hospital, the Leopold Café, the Taj Mahal and Oberoi Trident Hotels and a building described, at the worst, as the center of an ultra-Orthodox missionary sect, but more often not even mentioned. Who were those young men in t-shirts and combat pants? Disgruntled Kashmiris, oppressed Indian Muslims, or perhaps Anglo-Pakistanis born in Britain? The real question should be: how many more are there where those came from? What central force is driving them? When will we stop taking a piecemeal approach to these sporadic episodes and recognize that we are at war?  more>>>
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Posted on 12/31/2008 6:23 PM by NER
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Fast Jihadists and Slow Jihadists
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by Hugh Fitzgerald (Jan. 2009)

 
It has taken quite a while. It still is not understood by many, and among those many are many in Israel, who simply do not want to understand how badly they have for so long misunderstood, the war being waged against them. For too many of them, it is an upsetting idea. They can't quite grasp, because they would dearly prefer not to grasp, that the war against Israel has no end, so further Israeli concessions and at this point irrational sweet-reasonableness will only weaken Israel, and thus, by the logic of Islam, make it more not less likely that Muslims will attack the Infidel nation-state. Nor should much significance be given to the war, for power and loot, between the two factions Hamas and Fatah. They agree completely on the goal, and the end result. But the Slow Jihadists of Fatah, being more corrupt, and thus more immediately desirous of Western aid, and being more patient and cunning as well, because less heedlessly fanatical, differ only in tactics and in timing from the Fast Jihadists of Hamas, who in any case may themselves be becoming, just a little, more pragmatic, which naturally draws them closer to the Slow Jihadists of Fatah. more>>>
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Posted on 12/31/2008 6:20 PM by NER
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
The Prophets
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by Rebecca Bynum (Jan. 2009)

 
recently had lunch with Dr. Richard L. Rubenstein, distinguished historian and professor of religion, and in the course of the conversation asked him, “Do you think the Jewish people could ever accept Jesus as a prophet?” His answer was an emphatic, “No,”  more>>>
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Posted on 12/31/2008 6:12 PM by NER
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Jihad and the Roots of Europe�s Religious Identity
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by Richard L. Rubenstein (Jan. 2009)

 
 
In a 2004 interview, Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, asserted that “Europe is a cultural continent, not a geographical one” whose roots are Christian. Recalling the wars of religion between Christianity and Islam, the Pope argued that Turkey belonged to another cultural continent and ought not to be admitted to the European Union.[1]  What was left unsaid was the Vatican’s attitude toward the place of the more than 23,000,000 Muslims currently residing in Europe. [2]  more>>>
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Posted on 12/31/2008 6:04 PM by NER
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Apparently, I Can Read Dutch
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I just visited the website of Geert Wilders and found this newly-posted sentence, and I discovered that I can read it with ease:

"2008 was een fantastisch jaar voor de PVV en hopelijk wordt 2009 zelfs nog beter!"

So  I want you to be among the first to know. Apparently, I can read Dutch.

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Posted on 12/31/2008 5:55 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Wot! No knees ups?
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I spotted Mr Chad on the wall of Fleur de Lis Street (the French name showing the Huguenot influence on London's East End) while visiting my aunt and cousins this afternoon.
A Happy New Year to all and I hope you enjoy a good New Year celebration at home or out.

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Posted on 12/31/2008 5:01 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
The Sentence That Speaks Volumes
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From a story all about the "suffering" of the "Palestinians" -- that is, the Gazan Arabs -- because Israel has so wickedly bombed the dual-use tunnels through which, not only legitimate supplies, but also many thousands of rockets, tons of explosives, and other weaponry of all kinds have been steadily, persistently, manically smuggled into Gaza:

"Burdeni, 45, the mother of 11, relies on U.N. aid to feed her children, but officials halted food distribution Dec. 18, citing shortages caused by the border closure."

The so-called Arab or "Palestinian" "refugees" who have been on the U.N. dole either since 1949 -- that is, sixty years --or since 1967 -- that is, more than forty years, have been happy to continue to receive all sorts of U.N. aid, doled out by the entirely Arab staff of UNRWA (which organization may have one or two non-Arabs prominently placed at the top, so as to disguise the Arab nature of this "U.N." organization,  handmaiden of the Jihad against Israel),  They are also apparently happy to be able to spend tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars on the 10,000 rockets they have already sent whizzing, since 2001, into Israel, and the 10,000 more they reportedly still possess, or did until a few days ago, along with all the money that goes for every other sort of bomb-making materiel and anti-tank guns and other war materiel, most of it stockpiled since August 2005, when Israel scrupulously removed every last Israeli, soldier and civilian, from Gaza, leaving it entirely in the hands of the Gazan Arabs who first promptly destroyed the greenhouses left intact for them to use, and then have ever since been on an UNRWA-funded rampage,  an orgy of bottomless hate, directed at Israel, and the only other activity that the Gazan Arabs seem to indulge in with such enthusiasm is to multiply, to supply -- as they and other Arabs and Muslims (see Houari Boumedienne's proud prediction at the U.N. in 1974) -- more and more warriors for Allah.

And the same huge families can be observed in the "West Bank" and indeed, everywhere in the Arab and Muslim world, where demography is seen as a weapon, and openly discussed, and the difference in Muslim and non-Muslim birth-rates can also be easily compared in the countries of Western Europe -- in Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Spain -- with the demographic changes, apparently to be treated as inexorable, with nothing at all to be done, not even a demand that families on the dole be required to limit their family size, or have all of their grotesquely generous benefits ended, and at the same time, ,non-Muslims carefully, and most often for economic reasons. And the economic calculations made by non-Muslims limiting their families to one, or possibly two, children (three nowadays is a gigantic number), must necessarily include the the awareness of the vast sums spent to support non-working Muslim men and women, their huge families, and to pay for the increased security appartus made necessary by that large and ever-increasing Muslim population).

Study that careless sentence, which is in fact the most important one in the whole piece, again: 

"Burdeni, 45, the mother of 11, relies on U.N. aid to feed her children, but officials halted food distribution Dec. 18, citing shortages caused by the border closure."

On the permanent UNRWA dole, the "mother of 11." And so many others just like her.  This has to be noted. And something has to be done, starting with Infidels who, looking around themselves in the imperilled and degraded countries of Western Europe, will begin to defend themselves, defend the civiliational legacy that is threatened by "mere" demography, as by so much else.

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Posted on 12/31/2008 4:46 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Hamas Does Everything It Can To Increase Civilian Casualties, Arab As Well As Jewish
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From a story in the McClatchy newspapers here: 

"Gaza families were sleeping in stairwells and corridors in hopes of avoiding the Israeli air strikes, which have targeted Gaza City's largest university, as well as mosques that Israel claimed were being used to store weapons, build rockets or hide militants. Israel announced Monday that it would also attack private residences if they're used to house militants.

"The IDF will continue to act against anyone who harbors terror in their residence, provides shelter to terrorists and their activities, and forces their children and spouses to act as human shields," the Israeli military said in a statement.

In messages that have left many Palestinians rattled, Israel has been placing calls to Gaza residents to personally warn them that their homes, or adjacent buildings, were targets.

Among those trapped in their homes was Wafa Kannan , a 27-year-old Gaza City resident who's been camping out in a narrow apartment corridor with her mother and two brothers since the strikes began on Saturday.

Over the weekend, Kannan's mother received a recorded call on her cell phone from the Israeli military. When she heard who was calling, she hung up. Minutes later, the same call came to the landline in her apartment warning her to leave if she was storing weapons.

In an apartment building across the street from Kannan and her family live four brothers who are Hamas militants. Israeli intelligence called the Hamas members to warn them that they were targets, Kannan said.

Leaders at the local mosque urged neighbors to converge on the apartment building and act as human shields, she added. No one heeded the call, however, so the Hamas militants fled."

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Posted on 12/31/2008 4:36 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Party poopers
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From The Minivan News. That is news from the Maldive islands, not news about small tradesman's vehicles.
The ministry of Islamic affairs appealed to the Maldives Police Service on Wednesday to end to all the discos organised for New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Police sergeant Ahmed Shiyam confirmed Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari, the minister of Islamic affairs, had made an official request to the police commissioner, Ahmed Faseeh, for police to take action regarding this matter.
Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, the state minister of Islamic affairs, said the ministry had formally requested the police stop the discos from taking place because they were contrary to Islam. He added the ministry had received complaints from the public.
“We have received hundreds of complaints asking for a ban on the DJs,” he said. “So, the number of people who are against having DJs is greater than the number who wants them."
“Even a police official has informed us that they have also been receiving complaints.” he said.
According to Shaheem, it is haram or forbidden in Islam for both sexes to dance together.
Article 10 of the Constitution states the religion of the Maldives is Islam and Islam shall be the basis for all laws in the land.
Although Article 27 stipulates everyone has the right to freedom of expression, the right only exists as long as it is “not contrary to any tenet of Islam”.
Hussain Ibrahim, a prominent lawyer, agreed there was no law which permitted discos.
Ibrahim, also a former constitutional assembly member, said discos were forbidden in Islam and as such would be contrary to the Constitution.
“I can’t believe it,” said 25-year-old Ali Hussain after hearing the ministry’s decision. “It’s a big surprise. I’ve been celebrating New Year’s Eve for the past five years by going to discos. Boys and girls want to dance to music on this night.”
Hussain added if discos are banned, circumcision parties should also be forbidden. “In circumcision parties, men and women dance very closely, so the ministry’s decision is unfair.” he said.
Meanwhile in Dubai, according to the Mirror
David Beckham and the rest of the AC Milan team had their New Year's Eve celebrations cancelled today by the ruler of Dubai following the violence in Gaza.
Becks joined British ex-pats in Dubai who were today planning alternative New Year's Eve celebrations after all public parties were cancelled.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of the Gulf state, called off festivities late yesterday.
He said "all public New Year's celebrations" should be stopped "in solidarity with the Palestinian people, who are currently enduring death, suffering and destruction in Gaza".

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Posted on 12/31/2008 4:29 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Yesterday in Ft. Lauderdale
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Video from Tom Trento of watchobsession.org.

 

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Posted on 12/31/2008 12:33 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Councillor slams Muslim lecture �New York in flames� poster
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From The East London Advertiser
A POSTER showing New York being destroyed by meteors from the sky—to promote a New Year’s Day ‘end of time’ lecture at the East London mosque—has been condemned by the Opposition on Tower Hamlets council.
The mosque and Islamic centre is allowing organisers to run the all-day event including a video link-up with controversial Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, who America says had connections with New York’s 9/11 attacks. More here from last week.

Now the poster advertising tomorrow’s event at Whitechapel—showing meteors crash down on Manhattan, setting fire to the city and shattering the Statue of Liberty—has been slammed by the Tory Opposition leader on the local authority.
“The poster strikes me as extremely inappropriate,” Cllr Peter Golds told the East London Advertiser today (Dec-31).
The US embassy in London declined to comment on the New Year’s Day event.
But an East London Mosque spokesman said: “Mr Awlaki has not been proven guilty in a court of law. Everyone is entitled to their point of view. The subject matter is about judgement and the afterlife, a common theme in many religions.”
The meteors reining down on New York in the poster referred to ‘the end of the world’ which had no official reference to September 11, according to the mosque.
An American embassy spokesman in London said: “The US is a strong supporter of free speech—but that comes with responsibility. Three thousand people from 90 countries died on September 11.”
And as Jesus said "And be assured, I am with you always, to the end of time." Matthew 28.20

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Posted on 12/31/2008 12:08 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Inside Israel: Mirror man experiences daily life under rocket attack
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This is from the British tabloid the Mirror, which, showing my age, I still call the Daily Mirror.
The Maman family had not long eaten breakfast when loud-speakers echoed across the street into their modest home.
An authoritative Hebrew male voice yelled “Tzeva Adom” (Code Red) – the signal to take cover.
Avi Maman tried to rush his brood into a makeshift bomb shelter by the house. Then Boom.
A crude homemade Qassam rocket exploded and tore off the roof, sending deadly shrapnel and ceramic tiles flying.
Welcome to Sderot – a tiny Israeli town gripped with fear just three miles from the border with Hamas-controlled Gaza – where yesterday rockets and mortars kept striking deep inside the built-up areas.
But this is commonplace. The 20,000 residents are forced to cower daily in bomb shelters.
People out shopping, in cars or chatting to friends take cover when the 15-second alert sounds.
Sometimes it’s not enough. Three civilians and a soldier have been killed since the new attacks started on Saturday.
So the people here are definitely not joining in the wave of condemnation at Israel’s own offensive against Hamas. For them, the airstrikes provide a glimmer of hope that the misery of their lives can be lifted.
Sderot has been pounded with thousands of projectiles since 2001. Rockets have killed eight, injured hundreds more and made daily life unbearable.
Mayor David Buskila said his citizens were still scared, but mostly overjoyed that something was being done. “We felt abandoned for so long, that our despair was ignored. We felt like we weren’t even a part of Israel,” he said. “Now we feel like the army is actively protecting us.”
Our guide then took us to Sderot police station, where we found chilling reminders of the hundreds of attacks that have blighted this town for ages.
Row after row of spent rockets sit on racks, marked with the date and name of the disposal expert who dismantled it.
These homemade devices are literally thrown together by Hamas militants using old pipes and scrap metal and a crude fertilizer based explosive.
But they can inflict serious damage to life and property. Which is why townsfolk have a total lack of sympathy for the pummelled Palestinian civilians on the other side of the Gaza border fence.
Prime Minister’s spokesman Mark Regev told the Mirror that their operation was vital to protect Israel’s people.
Under the constant threat of Hamas rockets and mortars, the frightened citizens of Sderot at least are not arguing.

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Posted on 12/31/2008 11:22 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Oh, That Explains It
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I just decided to look up the word "teredo" on line. Its exact meaning had escaped me, and I needed more. And this is what Wikipedia offered me:

"Teredo is a tunneling protocol designed to grant IPv6 connectivity to nodes that are located behind IPv6-unaware NAT devices. It defines a way of encapsulating IPv6 packets within IPv4 UDP datagrams that can be routed through NAT devices and on the IPv4 internet."

That cleared things up.

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Posted on 12/31/2008 10:59 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Annoying atheists of the week
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 The trap some atheists fall into is their belief that, because all religions are equally nonsensical, they are equally harmless. Here is Christopher Hitchens lamenting the "totalitarianism" of Christmas:

Isn't Christmas a moral and aesthetic nightmare whether or not the days are prosperous? ....The core objection, which I restate every December at about this time, is that for almost a whole month, the United States—a country constitutionally based on a separation between church and state—turns itself into the cultural and commercial equivalent of a one-party state.

As in such dismal banana republics, the dreary, sinister thing is that the official propaganda is inescapable. You go to a train station or an airport, and the image and the music of the Dear Leader are everywhere. You go to a more private place, such as a doctor's office or a store or a restaurant, and the identical tinny, maddening, repetitive ululations are to be heard.

In a staggering and calculated piece of moral equivalence, Jesus is compared to Kim Jong Il, and carols are compared to ululations, the repulsive noises made - often for propaganda reasons - by passive, dead-eyed Muslim women. Try living in a country suffused, as Hugh calls it, with Islam. And, like Communism, Islam is not just for Christmas - it's for life. Hitchens' bah-humbuggery is grossly misplaced.

Not quite as annoying, but every bit as silly, Douglas Murray writes in The Spectator that "studying Islam has made [him] an atheist":

Gradually, scepticism of the claims made by one religion was joined by scepticism of all such claims. Incredulity that anybody thought an archangel dictated a book to Mohammed produced a strange contradiction. I found myself still clinging to belief in Christianity. I was trying to believe — though rarely arguing — ‘Well, your guy didn’t hear voices: but I know a man who did.’ This last, shortest and sharpest, phase pulled down the whole thing. In the end Mohammed made me an atheist.

Though it was a supplementary realisation, the problems that these texts have caused cannot be avoided either. Where else does your real bona-fide bigot find his metier? Anyone can repress a woman, but you need ‘dictated’ scriptures to feel you’re really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you’ve got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious ‘Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve’-style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different to you.

The difference is that Muslims' disapproval of those who are "different to you" is not confined to lame jokes about "Adam and Steve". They will kill you. Islam is not a religion like any other. It is a truly totalitarian way of life. It draws no distinction between the sacred and the secular - as Christianity must, according to Jesus himself - or between public and private.

Douglas Murray is disappointing. Like Hitchens, he is quite good on the subject of free speech, but like Hitchens, he does not make the connection between that freedom and the Judeo-Christian foundations of the Western civilisation that makes it possible. As with Hitchens, his atheism will not help.

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Posted on 12/31/2008 9:18 AM by Mary Jackson
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
Web Passes Newspapers As News Source
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From RealClear Politics:

For the first time ever, more people cited the Internet than newspapers as their primary source for news, according to the latest Pew Research Center survey, conducted Dec. 3-7 among nearly 1,500 adults in the U.S.

Currently, 40 percent of the respondents say that they get most of their national and international news from the Internet, up sharply from 24 percent in 2007. Newspapers remain the top source for 35 percent, about even with the past three years, but down significantly from the 50 percent as surveyed in 2003.

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Pew Research Center

Television is still the top source for news, with 70 percent (multiple responses were allowed), though the web is closing in on it as well. Among young people (ages 18-29), the Internet has pulled even with TV, with each drawing 59 percent. Just a year ago, twice as many young people cited the tube over the web (68 percent to 34).

The Internet's gain in 2008 was partly fueled by the heated presidential election, during which a record number of people flocked to the web daily to get their political news. But the survey also confirmed perhaps the worst-kept secret in the media industry, that the viability of the printed press is in grave danger...

Of course, most web content for news comes from newspapers' websites. If the newspapers go, will they just go online?

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Posted on 12/31/2008 8:32 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
A Poll in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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The Israeli military offensive against Hamas and Gaza will complicate efforts to reach peace in the Middle East. Many say it is time for a new strategy in dealing with the crisis. Should the U.S. open dialogue with Hamas?

No 81.44% 7419
Yes 10.23% 932
Yes, but with conditions 8.33% 759

 

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Posted on 12/31/2008 7:52 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
The sinister resurrection of Stalin
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I was a little dismissive of the Russians' choice of Stalin as the "third-best" Russian. After all, he was a mass murderer, and not even Russian. Anne Appelbaum, author of Gulag, gives a more considered but no less disturbing analysis. From The Telegraph:

I have some doubts about the veracity of this poll, particularly given that the television station in question is state-owned, and therefore manipulated by the Kremlin. Also, first place went to Alexander Nevsky, a medieval prince who defeated German invaders – and an ideal symbol for the Putinist regime, which prides itself on its defiance of the West. Second place went to Piotr Stolypin, a turn-of-the-century economic reformer who, among other things, gave his name to the cattle cars (Stolypinki) in which prisoners were transported to Siberia – another excellent symbol for the “reformer with an iron fist” label to which both Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev aspire.

Both seem too good to be true; neither had ever before seemed like candidates for such an august title. Had the poll been completely free, I expect Stalin would have come in first place. Why wouldn’t he? After all, the government, media and teaching professions in Russia have spent a good chunk of the past decade trying to rehabilitate him – and not by accident.

[...]

This public portrayal of Stalin is highly selective. The many, many millions who died in the Gulag, in mass deportations or in mass murders are mentioned only as a kind of aside. Stalin’s purges of his closest colleagues and revolutionary comrades are given short shrift. The terror that made people afraid to speak their minds openly, that made children turn their parents in to the police, that stunted families and friendships, is absent from most contemporary accounts. Even Stalin’s programmes of industrialisation and agricultural collectivisation – which modernised the country at enormous cost to the population, the environment, and Russia’s long-term economic health – are not dwelled upon.

Instead, it is Stalin’s wartime leadership that is widely celebrated, and in particular his moment of imperial triumph in 1945, when Soviet-style communism was imposed on Russia’s western neighbours. In that year, Eastern Europe became a Russian colony and, more to the point, Stalin negotiated as an equal with Roosevelt and Churchill.

[...]

Even more significant is the role that the celebration of the Soviet Union’s imperial zenith now plays in a larger narrative about recent Russian history, namely the story of the 1980s and the 1990s. Famously, Putin once said that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the “biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century”, presumably larger than either world war. He, along with the Russian media and the current Russian president who echo him, now considers the more open discussion of the Stalinist past that took place during Gorbachev’s glasnost to have been a distraction, a moment of national weakness. More to the point, they openly attribute the economic hardships of the 1990s not to decades of communist neglect and widespread theft, but to deliberate Western meddling, Western-style democracy and Western-style capitalism.

In fact, this argument now lies at the heart of the current Russian leadership’s popular legitimacy. Summed up, it goes something like this: communism was stable and safe; post-communism was a disaster. Putinism, within which Medvedev fits naturally, represents a return at last to the stability and safety of the communist period. Cheer for Stalin, cheer for Putin, cheer for Medvedev, and the media will once again be predictable, salaries will be paid on time, Russia’s neighbours will be cowed, and Russia’s leaders will, once again, negotiate on equal terms with the leaders of the West.

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Posted on 12/31/2008 7:31 AM by Mary Jackson
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Wednesday, 31 December 2008
The Censorship Of Knowledge � And The Lack Of Knowledge
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Things might be bad in the USA but they are terrible and frightening in the UK. Here at the NER is an article by Mary about FIRE which is most apposite. Obviously, I am not going to name names for that would compromise my personal security, but my alma mater has recently banned from its libraries two recently published books on plant (as in green growing things) genetics for fear that the contents of those books would offend "those of different beliefs". One was by George Acquaah (Principles of plant genetics and breeding) and the other was by Messrs. Doran & Helliwell (RNA Interference: Methods for plants and animals [Principles and Protocols Series]) All three of those authors are perfectly reputable scientists and the books are perfectly reputable scientific tomes.

Naturally, I have read the books in question and I completely fail to see how anyone with slightest intelligence could take offence at the contents - to the grammar, spelling, style and use of English, of course, any half-way literate person could take offence, but these are books by scientists for scientists (or the scientifically knowledgeable public) and should not be judged in the same way that we judge literature.
As you would expect of me I joined the protest about the banning of those volumes and joined those who demanded answers from the administration of my University. It turns out that the first book, the one by George Acquaah, was banned from the libraries because it had the word 'breeding' in the title which is, so we were informed, a racist and 'classist' term which "has no place in a modern University". The other was banned from the college and departmental libraries simply because it had the initials RNA in the title and they, seemingly, stand for the Royal Naval Association which is an organisation “that glorifies militarism and colonialism” (completely untrue, by the way, see here) and talks about ‘protocols’ and “that is an anti-semitic word” (I presume that these ignoramuses were thinking of that notorious forgery and fake, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which has bedevilled any serious study of Jew-hatred in Europe for more years than I care to remember, when they invented this excuse).
Obviously, we are pleased to see that the ‘censorship’ (so to speak) department of our ancient University is vigilant in its policing of potentially anti-semitic texts (although such limitations on free-speech are dangerous in themselves), but that they are so illiterate and so stupid so as not to recognise a perfectly reasonable use of English words in the titles of these two works just beggars belief. It seems to me, and to many other quite reasonable English men and women, that these are people who go out of their way in order to find offence in the slightest, and most innocent, of things!
However, what is much more worrying for me is the idea that books can be ‘banned’, can be excluded from libraries simply because some petty official deems the contents of such books to be offensive to someone or insulting to some idea or belief. This is doubly worrying when it happens, as it did and does, at one of England’s oldest and most prestigious Universities. What is this place I find myself living in? Nazi Britain? Communist Britain? Sharia Britain? Look, no thought is unthinkable and no thought should be allowed to go unexpressed once that thought, no matter how vile it might be for its opponents, has been thought of, for that is democracy and free speech and no man has a right to tell me, or anyone else, how I, or they, must think and believe. Most especially, no man, no corporate body or out of control department of a University, has a right to tell me that there are certain documents which I may not read by using some sort of morality as justification for so doing. I am my own moral guardian! I neither need nor require others to protect my morality or to guide my moral sense into some sort of ‘right’ path as perceived by those others, those spurious guardians of freedom, who, in reality, are nothing more than politically correct, sub-standard moralists who, in their careers, have left many a village short of an idiot.
It seems to me that we are beginning to accept, in Britain, the disgusting Islamic argument that there are some things that we must not question or criticise, some things that are, a priori, beyond human ken or wit and that simply must be accepted and revered as (unexamined) fact. So, let me state, once and for all, my view – there is no aspect of being human on this planet which is not open to question and challenge. No matter what you state, or say, I will challenge it and demand objective proof. I demand, violently if necessary, but, and for many reasons, I do hope that violence will not be necessary, freedom of speech and thought in every aspect and respect.
Every time that the idiots try to ban a book – well, buy it! Stuff them! It seems to me that if they don’t want you to read it then it is precisely and exactly what you ought to be reading. Freedom, and let’s say that word again, freedom, is absolute and indivisible, no matter how much you might disagree with the outcomes. I have a right to publish and to read whatever I see fit to do so – Islam is wrong and evil because it denies that freedom and asserts that there are limitations on the analysis of being – that some things must not be thought about lest they disprove Islam! Well, most philosophy disproves Islam, of course, but Islam is alone amongst mankind’s beliefs in recognising the weakness of its philosophical position and strenuously denying the human right, and ability, to question. Hmmmn! Surely that gives the game away?
When any belief structure – Islam, Voodoo, Fundamentalist Christianity or whatever – says that questioning the structure and nature of that belief is forbidden if you want to be considered a ‘true’ and ‘saved’ believer then the very first thing that you should do is question the structure and nature of the belief system that is attempting to tempt you in. Never believe what you are told – and, certainly, don’t believe what I tell you!
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Posted on 12/31/2008 7:25 AM by John Joyce
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